Birthday letter to my brown son.

Happy Birthday sweet 16th Lee!


I am so proud of you. You have accomplished so much in your short 16 years on this Earth.

I hope I have not failed you by teaching you skin color doesn’t matter. I fear I’ve been naive and I haven’t prepared you for this current racial chaos.  Skin color does matter, and I struggle with feeding you the narrative that it doesn’t.

Who would’ve ever predicted 16 years ago that today we’d still be living in a racially charged climate ? I’m sorry you’ll have to work so hard to prove your intelligence and worth–perhaps even your humanity– because of the brown skin that houses your intellect and heart. We’ve tried to equip you with tools for success, regardless of race. But we’ve also coached you on society’s unwritten rules for black men. What you should and shouldn’t wear, how to show respect, how to conduct yourselves with dignity, and how to speak properly and confidently.

People will judge you based on these elements, and it could mean the difference between life and death for you.

I’ve never pretended that racism doesn’t exist. I’ve felt its sting.  I know humiliation. We all have prejudices. It’s part of our humanness. But know this: You can’t allow the actions of a few to color your view of the whole world.

You’ve faced discrimination in your own family so you know you’re not immune to it. The devastating stories we’ve seen in the media could’ve just as easily been about you, and your name could have become a hashtag to remind us of some horrible incident.

As your mother, I’m compelled to help you make sense of this craziness.In spite of what you see or hear, all white people aren’t “the enemy.” Don’t let anyone convince you they are. It’s simply not true. Know history, but don’t let it cripple you. A victim mentality will limit you economically and emotionally.

I wish I could return you to the womb, to warmth and safety. But I can’t. This has to be your experience. Your story to tell. Make no mistake about where I stand. First, you’re responsible for yourselves, your family. Second, you’re bound by the rules of society and law. I know you’ll respect that. I’ve raised you to be a man of character and integrity.

Most police officers want to help you. Be wise and remember what we’ve taught you. If the police pull you over, respect them. They deserve it. Comply with their wishes and pray it will be ok. If it doesn’t, I hope I’ve armed you with the tools to fight ignorance with grace.

Live without fear, but be aware of your surroundings.Even though you’ve heard this all before, I can’t risk leaving a stone unturned. You are too precious to me.

This is a low period in our country. This is not America at its best. But we still believe this is the best place in the world for you. As you transition become an adult, be beacons of hope & examples of what is best about America by treating everyone–regardless of race, social stature, or religious affiliation–with respect, compassion, and dignity.

I believe you will benefit by choosing content over skin color and love over hate. I couldn’t be prouder of the man you’re becoming. Allow others to see the fullness of America by being the best you can be.

Live strong, be safe.

Love you forever and always!


What’s in a name?

Ylonda Navade Rosenthal-Greene

One of my best friends in college used to call me the "multi-cultural experience" because my name was culturally of all over the place.

From an EARLY AGE as a person of color raised in a predominately white neighborhood the greatest fascination was with my maiden name of Rosenthal. "How did your family get that name?" I would be asked at the beginning of the school year.

I could never answer that question.  I had no idea that Rosenthal was a "Jewish" last name. To me, it was just my name.

As the years went by and I married my Irish husband (Greene with an "E" at the end) I could not bring myself to drop Rosenthal.  Each time I tried to research on Ancestry I could only go back a few generations.  This is common for many people of color.  Because of slavery many had only first names and families were routinely separated.

Finally a few years ago a yoga student (Ted) overheard another student ask me where Rosenthal came from. Ted said, "Ylonda I would love to research your family and find out for you".

So the long pain staking process of research, DNA matching began.  He slowly put together an amazing picture.

Here it is: My father's side (The Rosenthals) were "ACQUIRED" as property (slaves) on a plantation in Alexandria LA.  We were listed on the same list as furniture, cattle and acres!

The plantation was bought by a Jewish man named Jonah Rosenthal in 1860.  Soon after buying the property, Jonah gave us a large amount of acres of this property, AND gave us his last name.  In 1865 slavery was abolished. Although slavery was against the law, many had no where to go and no education. If they did leave the plantation and were lucky enough to get a job they could not get loans to buy property. So the Rosenthal were very lucky to own land free and clear. We still have and live on this land.

I know we were very lucky. I will carry this name with pride. I understand and appreciate the sacrifice Jonah made.  My children have begged me to hyphenate their name too.  I have promised if they feel the same way at 18 years old we would agree. This picture is the first two black Rosenthal on record.

William & Ettie Rosenthal 



What I Want


This journal entry means a lot to me. I saw this quote somewhere last year and wanted to remember it. The difference between this time and last time is that I’ve seen the product. I re-read this journal entry as a challenge or “words to live by” for myself over that last year. Soon after I wrote this in my journal, i started seeing my life, my teaching, my confidence, and my relationships shift.So i’ll ask you... how different would your life be if you actually went after what you wanted? God is good, y’all. happy monday!


Last year I met a man, Peter Horn who was a violin maker. My children's school rents all their string instruments from him. I made the call to rent instruments for the kids. The first time we met, Peter told me that he lost his wife-the love of his life suddenly only six months prior. He showed me her picture and a picture of their two 16 yr. old twin boys. He also spoke about his daughter who has stepped into the family business to help since her mother's death and become a second mother to her brothers. He spoke of his entire family each time I saw him and how they were grieving deeply. 

It was clear to me that his family was full of love.


Sunday a student, introduced herself after class. She looked so familiar to me but I wasn't sure where I knew her. She told me that we had someone in common. Peter Horn was her father. I quickly realized her face was familiar because she looked EXACTLY like her mother from the pictures I saw. She told me that she followed me on IG, and knew I was a cellist and that I had a stroke two years ago. 

THEN she shared with me that her mother, Tracey was also a cellist and died suddenly of a stroke. We exchanged emails and phone numbers and continued to talk when she sent me these text messages in the pics below.

I have cried all week as I celebrated my 42nd birthday. Grateful to still be alive knowing that my life could have ended just as suddenly and tragically as Tracey's. I was lucky to still have the ability to tell my husband and children that I love them. •

I once asked someone the key to healing.

“You live,” this person said.

And that was it. No elaboration. No explanation of why. No telling me what that meant.

I didn’t understand it. I didn’t question it. I simply tucked it away. UNTIL NOW...I was walking out their meaning. I was becoming their definition. If I wanted the explanation, all I needed to do in that moment was look in the mirror. 

So I will play Tracey Rieman-Horn's cello and live for the both of us. I hope to help keep her love and memory alive. 

So much love to her family for trusting me with this beautiful gift.


Year Three: HONESTY

It’s been a little over two years since my stroke.


I wanted my story to be: Yes, I had a stroke at age 39, but it didn’t effect me. I’m still strong and can do even more than before. 🤯

Total denial.


YEAR TWO: Facing my external reality.

MY family and friend’s PTSD. I had to acknowledge the fear my family faces anytime I don’t feel well, have a headache or I over exhaust myself. The fear my family faces everytime I travel alone. The fear of another stroke.



I have figured out that this will be the year of honesty. Honesty about the situation. Honesty that if I don’t set my GPS when traveling to my destination, even a familiar distination in the city I was born, I can get lost or forget where I was suppose to be. Yes it happens all the time. I have been lost one mile from my house. The houses and streets look familiar but I can’t figure out where I am.

Honesty to my co-workers that I can’t remember how to work the heat in the yoga studios even though they have shown it to me MANY TIMES. (Thanks Meghan Velotta and Scott Supler 😘). My children have worked for the last two years to help me hide what I can’t remember. I don’t remember their friend’s name or teachers names. They even know that they have to remember where I parked, because we have walked around cold parking lots for quite a while to find the car. My oldest will whisper names to me because he knows I have no idea.

Here’s the best part.... I have learned no one thinks I’m stupid and have only been so loving and comforting. My co-workers treat me like everyone else. I might just have to more set alarms to remind me. Thanks mom for the echo dots all over my house! 😘And lastly Ive learned it takes strength to ask for help when you need it and so I’m WAY stronger then I ever thought. ✨😘

#playingsmallisnolongeranoption #awaketomysoul #survivingastroke #lazyeye

True Story



We met in middle school when our community started to integrate. There were many families in the community that were unhappy about how the neighborhood was “starting to change.”

I was told by another student that she heard Candy call me the “N word”. At the time, that word was the worst thing someone could call me. It meant complete disrespect and at age 12... well...THOSE WERE FIGHTING WORDS!

So I cornered Candy in the middle school bathroom and literally scared the living daylights out her, when a mutual friend came in and stopped me. From that moment on Candy was the enemy!

I found out later that the story was completely made up! It wasn’t true. She never said those words.(Sigh...middle school girls 🤨)

Years went by and we never spoke. I watched her as she made friends with everyone but I was to embarrassed and I’m sure, my pride was to big to just apologize. We graduated high school and went off to college and years later I found her on Facebook and sent her a private message explaining my behavior. She of course accepted my apology and invited me over to her home for lunch and a play date with our kids (who were the same age) AND we were BOTH YOGA TEACHERS!!! 😱We have been inseparable ever since. Our kids love each other and i am left with one of the BEST women on the planet, who always has my back (even when I act like a complete nut case). Candy Koslen : you are the greatest. I’m grateful for you! So grateful. Love always, Ylonda

I’m not fearless.


Yesterday my daughter told me that she thought I was cool because I was fearless.

I told her the truth... I am not fearless. In fact since my stroke I feel urgency to find and live my purpose.

That my “someday” has to be today because so

many dreams and aspirations get pushed off until a “someday.” But someday is never guaranteed to us. I told her it is okay to be scared and overwhelmed before jumping into the unknown. That is what keeps us trusting. The important thing is to not let the fear be bigger than your faith. You can acknowledge the fear exists but you do not need to answer to it. •

I stressed not to let the fear of what could happen make nothing happen. Make your someday today. Trust you already have everything you need within you to take the first step. Your future self is relying on you.

She looked at me and said “Mom, you’re even cooler than I thought.”

❤️😭 #awaketomysoul #hopethathelps #parentingishard #playingsmallisnolongeranoption #liveBIG #FAITH

Lazy Eye

From a young age I have always had a lazy eye. Most people would only notice it when I was tired. But since the stroke two years ago it’s always there. I can sleep for two straight weeks and it will still be there when I wake.

So heading into every photoshoot I have to have the same conversation with the photographer. I tell them that I have a lazy eye and you mostly see it in photos. They say “no you don’t.” And I say, just wait and you will see it. They snap a few pics and take a look.

“OH you’re right, you do.” they say.

Then the projects begins where we do our best to hide it or take pics with my eyes closed or get me only from a side angle. Frankly it’s a complete cluster f$ck.

So when I met with the talented @tomcsawyer and gave him my lazy eye talk, he responded with....

“I think we should show it.”

I gave him a confused look. Show it?? What?? 🤔I said.

He repeated himself. “Yes , show it. It’s YOU! And Ylonda, it’s not as bad as you think. I promise.” And so for the first time I looked straight into the camera and the camera saw me. It saw my Soul. Yes the lazy eye is there (my right eye to be exact) but it no longer looked as bad as it did in the past. It was the first time that I accepted it to be a part of me. A beautiful part of me. In fact, one of my friends told me that it looked like I was winking 😉 LOL!

Thank You  @tomcsawyer. I am so very thankful.


#lazyeye #loveallofyou #awaketomysoul





I was not planning on it. I have never been a particularly good builder to be honest. I was the child whose blocks always fell down, whose fort crumbled to the ground. I had no intention of adding this to my resume.

But I did....

Brick by brick I began to build. Bricks of words spoken to me. Of doubts. Of memories. Of fears. Of failures. Of pain. One after another, I kept compiling and stacking them. Longer, stronger and higher the wall became. It was only when I woke up one day in the hospital that I noticed what I had constructed. Only then did I see what my mind was busy at work creating while my heart ached .

I had confined myself. Playing small, hiding behind others, using the doubts, fears, pain. A future once so visible I could no longer see.

The worst part was, I knew what was on the other side. I memorized that scenery. I was captivated by its colors. I was drawn to its light.


There was nothing left on this side of the wall for me to see, for me to know, for me to explore. The work began to deconstruct my thoughts about myself, my fears and doubts, to deconstruct the wall. I got busy figuring out what were the “stories” i created in my head and what was TRUTH.

If something or someone gave me the feeling that I wasn’t worthy, I dropped it or them.

Was it hard? HELL YES

Was it necessary? HELL YES

With those things removed it created an opening to escape. To breathe in new air. To hear a new voice. To live a lifelong dream. To be whole.

To be free...


Your message is powerful


I have this belief that one article, one social media post, one video or blog can change the direction of someone’s life.

It makes me think about what I choose to post.

I ask myself:

Is what I am sharing adding more love or more division?

If it was cool to read your mother’s feed-Is this something I would feel proud if my children saw or read?

If you are on social media it doesn’t matter if you have 1 follower or 1 million, you still have a platform that can help influence this world.

The words you chose today {or spoke} were heard by someone.

Someone scrolling through their feed saw what you had to say and it was implanted in their consciousness.

So if you ever for a hot second think your message doesn’t have power, there is at least 1 person who read and thought about what you said today.

Your words. Your posts. Are powerful. Your message (whatever it is: positive or negative) is powerful. We each can change the trajectory of someone’s life. HOW INCREDIBLE IS THAT? Your message is powerful.